The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge
These consolidated employment discrimination cases were
recently transferred to this court from Judge Lefkow's docket.
Three motions are fully briefed and pending: (1) Ms. Johnson's
objections to Judge Denlow's Report and Recommendation ("R&R")
regarding General Board's motion in No. 02 5221 to enforce the
parties' alleged settlement agreement; (2) General Board's motion
in No. 04 C 6158 to dismiss the claims against it; and (3) Jimmy
Jackson, Debbie Reid, Gertrude Livernois, and Helen Exarhakos'
motion in No. 04 C 6158 to dismiss the claims against them. For
the following reasons, the parties' settlement agreement in No.
02 5221 will be enforced. As the settlement agreement also covers
the claims raised by Ms. Johnson in No. 04 C 6158, this means that the defendants' motions
to dismiss filed in that case must also be granted.
The court begins with the observation that Ms. Johnson has
previously been represented by five different appointed attorneys
and is presently proceeding pro se. Thus, the court will thus
construe her filings liberally. The court also notes that it has
independently considered whether appointment of counsel would
affect the result in this case. Because it concludes that it
would not, the court will turn to a summary of the relevant
Judge Denlow recommended that the court grant General Board's
motion to enforce the settlement agreement allegedly reached in
No. 02 5221. For a full recitation of the events leading up to
the alleged settlement, the court incorporates the detailed
summary of the facts from the R&R. In short, Judge Denlow
conducted four settlement conferences. Ms. Johnson was
represented by counsel during all of these conferences.
On June 2, 2003, the parties attempted to settle the case. No
agreement was reached and the case was returned to Judge Lefkow
for further proceedings.
In June of 2004, Judge Lefkow referred the case for a second
settlement conference. The following month, after an extensive
negotiations, the parties were close to reaching a monetary
agreement. With the concurrence of the parties, Judge Denlow made
a settlement recommendation as to the financial terms and gave
the parties until August 2, 2004, to advise the court whether
they would accept the recommendation.
Before the parties left the settlement conference, Judge Denlow
asked the parties to complete his Settlement Checklist/Term Sheet
to ensure that all of the other settlement terms would be agreed upon in the event that the parties accepted the
court's monetary recommendation. The Settlement Checklist/Term
Sheet is a three page worksheet which lists questions that
commonly arise when settlement agreements are finalized. The
topics reviewed included items related to the treatment of any
monetary terms, forms of release, confidentiality, enforcement
mechanisms, disposition of the litigation, documentation of the
agreement, the effective date, and other terms. The Settlement
Checklist/Term Sheet completed on this day indicated that there
would be "[n]o binding agreement until the settlement agreement
is fully documented and signed." The parties did not sign the
Settlement Checklist/Term Sheet because they had agreed on most,
but not all non-monetary terms of the settlement agreement.
Therefore, as of July 21, 2004, there was no agreement on either
the monetary or non-monetary terms.
Judge Denlow gave the parties eleven days to consider his
monetary recommendation. On August 2, 2004, the defendants
accepted the settlement recommendation. The same day, Ms. Johnson
sent a letter to Judge Denlow accepting the settlement proposal
"provided the Defendants agree to make the release mutual by
including appropriate language releasing any and all potential
claims against Ms. Johnson." The release agreement on the
Settlement Checklist/Term Sheet indicated a one way release from
Plaintiff to Defendants. Therefore, as of August 2, 2004, there
was an agreement between the parties regarding Judge Denlow's
monetary recommendation, but there was still no agreement on all
of the non-monetary terms.
On August 6, 2004, defendants sent Ms. Johnson a revised
settlement agreement incorporating the mutual release language
that Ms. Johnson had requested. They gave Ms. Johnson until
August 31, 2004, to accept the agreement. On August 30, 2004, Ms.
Johnson sent defendants a revised version of the release agreement that
contained numerous changes to various provisions in the
On August 30, 2004, Ms. Johnson sent Judge Denlow a letter
delineating the paragraphs of the proposed settlement agreement
that were still in dispute. The following day, Judge Denlow held
a third settlement conference to finalize the language in the
settlement agreement. During the conference, the defendants
agreed to all of Ms. Johnson's changes that were listed in her
August 30th letter and handwrote these changes on the settlement
agreement. The parties then initialed all pages of the revised
settlement with the exception of page one, which contained a
provision regarding the treatment of the settlement proceeds.
This page was left unsigned in order to finalize the tax
treatment of the settlement as Ms. Johnson was unsure whether she
wanted the settlement amount to be issued with taxes withheld or
not. Defendants repeatedly assured Ms. Johnson that they were
amenable to whichever tax treatment Ms. Johnson desired.
During the settlement conference on August 31st, Ms. Johnson
never asked to increase the previously agreed upon settlement
amount. The only open issue related to whether taxes would be
withheld, and the defendants had agreed to leave this matter up
to Ms. Johnson and proceed however she wanted with respect to
this issue. Therefore, as of August 31st, all of the disputed
terms had been worked out, as reflected in the initialed
Later on August 31st, the defendants sent a revised version of
the settlement agreement to Ms. Johnson's counsel for her
signature. The revised agreement incorporated all of the
handwritten changes that were agreed to by the parties earlier
that day. Therefore as of August 31, 2004, a meeting of the minds
was reached on all issues relating to the settlement, since the defendants had agreed to accede to however Ms. Johnson
wanted to proceed with respect to taxes.
On September 10, 2004, Ms. Johnson's counsel advised
defendants' counsel that Ms. Johnson had refused to sign the
revised version of the settlement agreement. Ms. Johnson's
counsel informed defendants' counsel that Ms. Johnson might be
willing to sign the settlement agreement if the monetary terms of
the settlement were more than doubled, ...